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We picked up a shelter dog, he's 8 months old, neutered, australian cattle dog / brittany spaniel mix. I love this dog! I'm very committed to fostering a good relationship with him that will be beneficial for both of us. As a first time dog owner I knew pretty much nothing coming in. I let him sleep on the bed, babied him, fed him first, etc. When I started noticing that he was listening less and being less friendly I looked up some articles on establishing yourself as the alpha figure. I did this by:

- Making eye contact until the dog breaks it, and then praising him.
- Eating before him, taking food he is eating and having him sit to get it back.
- Walking through him while he's standing up, sorta plowing him out of the way (not in a forceful way - just saying "You gotta get out of my way").
- Walking out of and into doorways first and staying ahead during the walks.

I noticed a huge turn around in his behavior. He can sit, shake, lie down, and get in his crate for a treat (or if you make it look like you have a treat). With me in particular, I can tell that he is willing to sit even when there is no treat coming because of my alpha seniority.

The problem I have come to is this: now that I have come to be in a dominant position over him, he seems overly submissive. When I go to pet him he rolls on his back, looks far away from me, acts nervous, and eventually pushes me away and growls. When we first got him he loved the affection and would always come up into my lap. I'm worried that by being a firm leader I'm pushing away the affectionate aspect of the relationship. I don't want that! In fact, we picked him at the shelter because he was outgoing and friendly, coming up and putting his head in both my and my girlfriend's laps.

As far as negative enforcement, the only things are I have been consistently telling him to get off of the couch. At first I'd calmly take him of and gently say "No, no. Not for dogs." and slide him onto the ground, and then praise him and say good boy and give him a treat for lying down on the ground. As he continued to do it, I got into a habit of saying "No!" sharply, not quite yelling, and taking him off of the couch a little more forceably but still having him lie down and stay for a treat. Finally this most recent time he was about to jump up and I let out a startling yell "NO!" and he jumped, and trotted away quickly. Was I too harsh? He had so many warnings. :\

I take him for plenty of walks, we fetch in the house, so I think he has enough exercise and food and treats. I've had two experiences of growling:

1) The first instance: he came over to me, hopped up into my lap after being invited, and enjoyed some rubs. Usually when I stop rubbing him he pokes his head into my hands for more. Then he did the submissive rolling onto his back maneuver with one rear leg in the air. I kept at it with a tummy rub and he started growling and showing me his teeth. I just left him alone.

2) The second time started the same, but instead of just backing off I backed up and stood tall and made eye contact with him. He bared his teeth, lips curled, for quite a while we stared at each other.. it lasted longer than any other stare-down has lasted and eventually he gave in, came to me, licked my feet, followed me around, and was nice again.

A few other things have been on the increase: now when he jumps up on us we get a lot more claw contact which is unpleasant and he doesn't really come to me for affection unless he wants a treat.

I want to do the right thing and I've been working 24/7 on doing right by my pup, so any tips would be greatly appreciated. (Keep in mind I've read most of the articles that are easily found about basic manners, aggressiveness, alpha roles, crate training, etc.
 

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Alpha dominance theory in dogs was debunked decades ago. I suggest reading up on positive reinforcement training instead. Look for work by Ian Dunbar, Karen Pryor, Patricia McConnell etc. You have established yourself as a bully and he is now afraid of you.

Some reading on why dominance theory isn't helpful in understanding and working with dogs: http://k9domain.web.officelive.com/alpha_theory.aspx
http://www.clickersolutions.com/articles/2001/dominance.htm
http://www.clickertraining.com/node/2297
 

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Are you sure that the teeth baring is aggressive in nature or is it just "talking"? Some dogs will "smile" & grumbling that's not a bad thing.

Oh & that dominance theory is very debunked :), I wouldn't continue with that alpha, rigid, "I'm the boss" dog whisper methods. IMO they take away some of the fun of having a dog (I love the little perks they have :) ). Dr Sophia Yin has a great site on this subject : http://drsophiayin.com/philosophy/dominance/

You can also search for her videos on. You tube.
 

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His behavior did improve a lot when I started to follow these instructions:

http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/topdogrules.htm

And for a while he was still being quite friendly. When I first got him he would pull on his leash a LOT while walking, he would refuse to sleep in his crate, etc and whine and bark until we would let him in bed. And while I do follow a few instructions to make him think I'm a pack leader I still only use only positive reinforcement while teaching, with the except of sharp "no"'s.

So I should go back to letting the dog go through doorways first and having him pull on the leash and everything?

Thanks for the resources I will look at them presently. Any more tips would be appreciated. I'm reluctant to believe being the pack leader is a bad idea, from what I understand it's quite possible to have the respect that goes with being leader while (and perhaps even more so) having the affectionate, positive, trusting relationship that comes from positive reinforcement training. As in, the stuff I've read has explicitly said so.
 

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Yes you can be the dogs leader and have a good relationship but you don't need to physically dominate your dog for it to know you are the leader. A good leader is a benevolent leader. If you can earn your dogs trust back and work on positive training with him he will happily work for you without you needing to make him afraid of you.

Can you accomplish what you want (a dog that follows your commands and doesn't pull on leash?) by following dominance theory? Yes, you've seen that, but it will also hurt your relationship as you have also seen.

I encourage you to read all the stickies on this forum and gather as much information as you can from the knowledgeable people here.
 

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His behavior did improve a lot when I started to follow these instructions:

http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/topdogrules.htm

And for a while he was still being quite friendly. When I first got him he would pull on his leash a LOT while walking, he would refuse to sleep in his crate, etc and whine and bark until we would let him in bed. And while I do follow a few instructions to make him think I'm a pack leader I still only use only positive reinforcement while teaching, with the except of sharp "no"'s.

So I should go back to letting the dog go through doorways first and having him pull on the leash and everything?

Thanks for the resources I will look at them presently. Any more tips would be appreciated. I'm reluctant to believe being the pack leader is a bad idea, from what I understand it's quite possible to have the respect that goes with being leader while (and perhaps even more so) having the affectionate, positive, trusting relationship that comes from positive reinforcement training. As in, the stuff I've read has explicitly said so.
Try using common sense in training ..and take interweb advice less seriosly.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Roloni - common sense, to me, meant treating him like I would a person. Sleeping in the bed, going up on the couch, if he wanted to pull on the leash I'd let him have his way and so on. It panned out very poorly! I think common sense isn't going to work for somebody with no experience with dogs! That's why I'm looking at "interweb" resources (many more than just a few) and coming onto this forum.

We'll be going to a basic manners class once he's completely over his cough which should be pretty soon!
 

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His behavior did improve a lot when I started to follow these instructions:

http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/topdogrules.htm
Sadly, there's a lot of bad info in that article and you've seen the result of putting into practice.

I'm reluctant to believe being the pack leader is a bad idea
You might find this informative, Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior as well as some of the other links posted in this thread.
 

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The problem I have come to is this: now that I have come to be in a dominant position over him, he seems overly submissive. When I go to pet him he rolls on his back, looks far away from me, acts nervous, and eventually pushes me away and growls. When we first got him he loved the affection and would always come up into my lap. I'm worried that by being a firm leader I'm pushing away the affectionate aspect of the relationship. I don't want that! In fact, we picked him at the shelter because he was outgoing and friendly, coming up and putting his head in both my and my girlfriend's laps.

As far as negative enforcement, the only things are I have been consistently telling him to get off of the couch. At first I'd calmly take him of and gently say "No, no. Not for dogs." and slide him onto the ground, and then praise him and say good boy and give him a treat for lying down on the ground. As he continued to do it, I got into a habit of saying "No!" sharply, not quite yelling, and taking him off of the couch a little more forceably but still having him lie down and stay for a treat. Finally this most recent time he was about to jump up and I let out a startling yell "NO!" and he jumped, and trotted away quickly. Was I too harsh? He had so many warnings. :\

I take him for plenty of walks, we fetch in the house, so I think he has enough exercise and food and treats. I've had two experiences of growling:

1) The first instance: he came over to me, hopped up into my lap after being invited, and enjoyed some rubs. Usually when I stop rubbing him he pokes his head into my hands for more. Then he did the submissive rolling onto his back maneuver with one rear leg in the air. I kept at it with a tummy rub and he started growling and showing me his teeth. I just left him alone.

2) The second time started the same, but instead of just backing off I backed up and stood tall and made eye contact with him. He bared his teeth, lips curled, for quite a while we stared at each other.. it lasted longer than any other stare-down has lasted and eventually he gave in, came to me, licked my feet, followed me around, and was nice again.

A few other things have been on the increase: now when he jumps up on us we get a lot more claw contact which is unpleasant and he doesn't really come to me for affection unless he wants a treat.

.
This is what a dog will do to show submission to another dog. Since you are acting like a dog ( a dog who is a bully) I'm not sure why you'd expect something different. Quit glaring at your dog and doing all the stupid alpha stuff. Instead interact with him, keep your eyes soft and ask for him to give you a behavior for things he wants. Look into positive motivation based training methods that don't rely on all that silly dominant/submissive voodoo. It's likely that you haven't permanently broken him yet.
 

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I wanted to say that several people have said that the way I've followed the instructions I found online about being an alpha-figure for your dog "bullying." That really makes me feel bad as I've been researching night and day and doing my damn best to try to do the right thing for this dog. My impression was that being a kind, consistent, calm, assertive leader for your dog would do wonders for making the dog more comfortable and confident.

Like I said, all that I've done in the way of "bullying" is 1) walk through doorways first, 2) if the dog is staring me down I'll not look away first, 3) I try not to walk around him and instead go over him or if he's standing up I'll move him, 4) eating before him. Further, the only negative reinforcement I've used is saying "no" at various intensities and in the case of chewing on things, removed the objects from his mouth.

I'm a nice and conscientious person at heart, with people and with animals, and it is very important to me to be so. I wouldn't do anything to a dog that I consider mean or bullying, and these four things I've listed truly do not seem mean to me.

That said I'm more than willing to reconsider my tactics. I'm not sure if you guys actually read my original post and saw these four measures listed and still consider me a dog bully, or if you just see somebody say the word "alpha" or "dominant" and say "oh, that's debunked and you're a bully." Hopefully the latter!

I'm looking at all the links people have posted here. The majority of them offer no alternative approach, but at least one does, so I'll check that out (slash, I already have been trying to implement it from the beginning). The one that I read most thoroughly was terribly written, it contained an implicit contradiction, a hasty generalization, and out of context definitions. I find it really hard to stomach illogical articles and take them to heart.

I'll say that to me, leader and alpha-figure mean the same thing. I should probably say leader instead because alpha-figure, I am finding out, is a rather loaded term. Correct me if I am wrong, but none of the resources cited here say that you should not be the leader of your dog, but in fact they are just saying not to bully your dog, to avoid negative reinforcement, and that positive reinforcement creates behavior modification which is more effective and healthy for the dog. My approach from the beginning was to be a calm-assertive, consistent leader and use only positive reinforcement to foster a consistent and friendly relationship with my dog.

@Pawzk9: I do try to ask for a behavior when I know he wants something. It's an easy no-brainer with treats. Getting him to sit before I throw a ball is a little tougher because he's all riled up, but it works a little. He doesn't get super excited about walks just yet, I think that's because I take him out so many times per day (four 15-45 minute walks) and he doesn't get a chance to yearn for it.

So if I may ask two more questions:

1) Given the bold part above, do you really think I am bullying my dog? You honestly think he's afraid of me? If so, I'll feel quite bad!
2) If the answer is no, my original question goes unanswered... why would he come to me asking for me to pet him and then growl at me for it?
 

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Quite honestly I DO treat my dog "like a people" (as I endearingly put it), but I still also treat her like a dog. No dominance involved--she even sleeps in my bed! I am her leader and also her equal. We eat at the SAME time--breakfast when we wake up and dinner when I get home from work. She often ends up through doorways first because honestly it's kind of hard to go through first myself when she's excited about going for a ride, although we are working on "door manners"--sit-stay to go out, sit-stay before coming in. But that isn't the same as dominating her; I do it to keep her mind working and to keep her feeling like she's got something to do. When she is in my way, a simple "excuse me" and she moves--something I taught inadvertently, actually! Saying "no" is okay, but I do it firmly, yet gently. No yelling. You don't have to dominate, and yes, there IS a difference between leadership and dominating.
 

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The FIRST thing I taught my dog was to stare into my eyes. This is a good thing! It gets your dog really focused on you. Any time I say Casper's name, or hold up a treat or toy he wants, he sits and bores holes through my eyes with his own, haha. He's waiting for me to tell him what to do to get a reward.

I trained this by holding a treat at the level of my face, but away from my face. He'd stare at the treat, of course, but I wouldn't give it to him until he glanced at me, at which point I'd stuff it in his mouth. He learned very quickly that putting his attention on me instead of the treat got him that reward! Now he will sit and stare at me to communicate when he wants something. But he is certainly not thinking he's above me in some sort of ranking system -- he realizes that good things come from me.

I love to quote this article from Ian Dunbar's site (he is one of the world's foremost authorities on dog behavior and can be trusted much more than a random article on a site full of misinformation):

From an assortment of books, I have discovered the following cautionary “advice” for owners. Never let a dog stare or jump-up, never stand, crouch or kneel down in front of a dog, never look a dog in the eyes, or reach over his head, never loom over a dog and reach down around his neck, never get down on the floor or allow a dog to stand over you, never give a dog food treats or human food, never allow a dog to eat before the family or go out of a door first, never allow a dog on furniture, upstairs, in the bedroom, or on the bed, never let a dog mount your leg, never let a puppy mouth or bite, and never play chase, tug o' war, or play-fight with a dog. Instead, novice owners are routinely advised to enforce “elevation dominance”, “dominance down-stays”, physical restraint and discipline and especially, the “alpha-rollover” — grabbing a dog by the jowls and forcing him onto his back.

All of these recommendations destroy the fun and enjoyment of living with a dog, most recommendations are just too silly for words, some are counterproductive and others are downright dangerous.

The above behaviors and actions were misconstrued as the dog's intention of dominating people even though these behaviors and situations have absolutely nothing at all to do with social rank or aggression during dog-human interactions. Basically, if an owner is OK with the dog’s behavior, then there is no problem, whereas if the owner is worried about the dog’s behavior and can neither prevent nor control it, then there is a problem.
Now, you did have issues with your dog's behavior, and you're right to want to change them. But forget the silliness about plowing past your dog, making him walk behind you, and intimidating him with your stare. It sounds like he definitely is nervous around you and unsure of how to act. You want him to be a happy and confident dog, right? You need to teach him what you expect of him, and for that I recommend the "Nothing In Life Is Free" training philosophy. It's super easy, a lot of it is common sense, and it works. Read about it here. :)

Also, here is an excellent roundup of what dominance theory is, what it was based on, and why it's wrong. It also explains the difference between "dominance" and "leadership" that you touched on in your above post. It's worth a read for sure.

(Edited to change the NILIF link to one that explained it better. It's not a "hard and fast rule" kind of program, so there are a lot of different interpretations out there.)
 

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Yeah that's something I forgot to mention--we are also working on attention!
 

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Like I said, all that I've done in the way of "bullying" is 1) walk through doorways first, 2) if the dog is staring me down I'll not look away first, 3) I try not to walk around him and instead go over him or if he's standing up I'll move him, 4) eating before him. Further, the only negative reinforcement I've used is saying "no" at various intensities and in the case of chewing on things, removed the objects from his mouth.

1) Given the bold part above, do you really think I am bullying my dog? You honestly think he's afraid of me? If so, I'll feel quite bad!
2) If the answer is no, my original question goes unanswered... why would he come to me asking for me to pet him and then growl at me for it?
I honestly think he's afraid of you. Based on what you described of his actions (rolling on his back, looking away, acting nervous) he is saying "I am a lowly little puppy, I'm not threat to you, please don't hurt me, I'll do whatever you ask".

Are you sure he was asking for you to pet him? It sounds like he was just being submissive but maybe you pet him in place where he is sore or in a threatening manner, were you staring at him or did you reach over top of his head? Both of those can be seen as a threat to a dog especially one that doesn't fully trust you.

As for your bolded statements. 1. This isn't really necessary but if you prefer to go through first for safety reasons it it is fine to teach door manners, just ask for a wait or a sit. 2. Staring at a dog is actually considered rude and sometimes a threat. Dogs stare at each other just before a fight breaks out. You can counter condition dogs with positive training so that they don't find staring from humans so threatening. 3. This I would consider bullying. If anyone especially a trusted friend started plowing through me for no good reason I would not be their friend much longer. If you need to get by it would be much nicer to just ask your dog to move, teach a command for it. Any time you feel the need to use any kind of force with a dog try to think of a command you could teach that would accomplish the same thing. 4. Again this isn't really necessary. It is more personal preference. We like to feed our dog his dinner through training so this often happens before we eat dinner. Otherwise we give it to him in a food puzzle while we eat to keep him busy and entertained.
 

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As far as negative enforcement, the only things are I have been consistently telling him to get off of the couch. At first I'd calmly take him of and gently say "No, no. Not for dogs." and slide him onto the ground, and then praise him and say good boy and give him a treat for lying down on the ground. As he continued to do it, I got into a habit of saying "No!" sharply, not quite yelling, and taking him off of the couch a little more forceably but still having him lie down and stay for a treat. Finally this most recent time he was about to jump up and I let out a startling yell "NO!" and he jumped, and trotted away quickly. Was I too harsh? He had so many warnings. :\
Your dog doesn't know what No means (not in the sense you want him to anyways) and he also doesn't know why you are acting mad when he jumps on the couch, for him the couch is a comfy place where he can be near you (not a place to go to somehow exert dominance over you). Try teaching him what you do want by teaching him a command like "off" or "go to your bed." Then you wont have to physically force him off or yell at him.

You might like kikopup's youtube channel. It has lots of great positive training techniques. It has the basics of clicker training and everything from basic leave its, sits, focus etc. to how to stop your dog from pulling on the leash, stop barking and some more complicated but fun tricks. http://www.youtube.com/user/kikopup?ob=4&feature=results_main
 

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Teaching up and off was a lifesaver for my dog, I can pretty much move her onto or off of just about anything I want now and we practice with various objects of varying heights on walks. Super easy to teach too.
 

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I used to be a big time advocate for the theory described in the DBI article (& those kn here csn atest to that) but since Izze's death I vowed to change my ways & stopped being a bully to my dog.
See..... To dogs we Re all ready the leaders we control everything about their enviroment (doors, water food, play time, shelter etc) the key I have found is letting the dog know that he doesn't get what HE wants without doing something I want f
 

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There's so much I want to say, but....ugh.
Here's a blog post on Alpha Rolls Interesting perspective.

Oh, and I thoroughly second the suggestion of the Kikopup stuff! Its fantastic.
 

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When I started noticing that he was listening less and being less friendly I looked up some articles on establishing yourself as the alpha figure.
Ah, seems to me that this is the point when the train first started to come off the tracks.

You've stated that your dog is an 8 month young rescue who has likely only been under your care for a very brief time, so I'm inclined to think he is essentially untrained and unestablished, therefore in that sense he can't 'listen less' if he doesn't possess a thorough and full understanding of what's really expected of him to begin with. A great deal of patience, understanding, and actual training over time will be needed here to develop a compliant dog who looks up to you as the apple of his eye rather than fearing you and questioning your motives.

As far as trustworthy literature to read, try Pat Miller's book The Power of Positive Dog Training, and/or Pat McConnell's The Other End of the Leash. IMO, both of these books are time well invested, instead of wasted. Either one should lead you and your pup much closer to where you're hoping to go, I suspect, ... without all of that needless whispery dominance crap clouding the issues.
 
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